Water shield is a perennial plant with relatively small, floating oval to elliptical leaves (to 5 inches in diameter) with no slit. Water shield has a distinctive gelatinous slime on the underside of the leaves and coating the stems. Leaves are green above while the underside of leaves and stems are reddish-purple. Stems attach at the center of the leaves. Flowers are small (9 1/2 to 3/4 inch), rise above the surface, are dull-reddish in color and consist of 3 to 4 sepals and petals. Water shield tends to be found in soft, acidic waters and can form large colonies.
Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.). After aquatic plants die, their decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food (called “detritus”) for many aquatic invertebrates. Water shield seeds are consumed by ducks and other waterfowl while the roots and stems are consumed by muskrats and nutria.